Evening Bedtime Reads: Dead People Do Tell Tales

tumblr_mcmcy3Yfnh1r48ofmo1_500Oh…Good Late Evening.

Damn, it has been one of those days…where no matter what you do, something is blowing up in your face or going wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it. We found out today that my daughter needs surgery on her ankle for a couple of torn ligaments, injuries that she has had for years. The whole process plus recovery will take 6 to 9 months, and she is very upset about it. We find out more on Friday, but this puts a big damper on the cheerleading thing. Hopefully she can cheer a few times before she goes under the knife. Ugh.

Anyway, tonight I’ve got just a couple of links for you…and they both deal with dead people, long time dead people.

Mysterious sealed coffin found near Richard III grave site in Leicester, England

Another body has been recovered from the Leicester car park where the remains of Richard III were discovered last year – but while a king of England was bundled into a hastily dug hole slightly too short for his corpse, the mystery man was buried in splendour, his body sealed in a lead coffin placed in a handsome limestone sarcophagus.

The stone lid was lifted carefully by hand last week. Archaeologists from Leicester University expected to find a fragmentary skeleton, since the weight of the lid and centuries of soil on top of it had long since crushed the sides of the box. Instead, to their surprise, they discovered an inner lead coffin, carefully soldered on all sides, its lid decorated with a cross.

“It’s in remarkably good nick except for one end where we think water trickling down has degraded the lead, so we could just see the feet. They look to be in very good condition, so we hope to learn a lot more from the bones,” said the site director, Matthew Morris.

Last year in the first hour of the first day of excavation, Morris found what proved to be Richard’s body. The new remains, probably buried more than a century before Richard’s death on the Bosworth battlefield in 1485, are now in the same university laboratory where the king rested before a battery of tests revealed to the world that the last Plantagenet had indeed been found. The scientists and bone experts intend to open the coffin under carefully controlled conditions over the coming winter.

Morris has records of three named individuals also buried near Richard at the choir end of Grey Friars church, including the Monty Pythonish “knight called Mutton, sometime mayor of Leicester” – probably Sir William de Moton who died in the late 1350s. Two leaders of the English Franciscans, Peter Swynsfeld who died in 1272 and William of Nottingham who died in 1330, are also known to have been buried there. However, since Morris has already found seven burials it may never be possible to identify the bodies.

Sir Mutton…can you imagine the sheep jokes now?

In the last month the team has ripped up the council car park again to find out more about the Grey Friars abbey, whose monks bravely claimed and buried the body of the dead king after it was humiliated on the battlefield and exposed naked in the town. “This is the site that keeps on giving,” Morris said.

They have also exposed more of Richard Herrick’s garden path. The wealthy local merchant bought the abbey ruins and built a house with a garden where, according to Christopher Wren, father of the famous architect, Herrick marked the site of the grave with an inscribed pillar. The newly found stretch, which incorporates rubble from the medieval buildings and even some Roman brick, points straight towards the grave.

Historians suggest that although Henry VII later paid for a monument over Richard’s grave – destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries when the ruins were stripped of anything saleable, including what was probably a splendid monument for the mystery man – he may have hoped that in a minor church in a provincial town the last Plantaganet would soon be forgotten. In fact the cult of Richard lived on.

A small exhibition in the Guildhall, which will be expanded in the new visitor centre planned to open next year, contains many fake relics of the dead king, including a scrap of carved wood and textile claimed to be part of the bed where he spent his last night in the Blue Boar Inn – though actually the item dates to the 17th century. Likewise a sword allegedly left behind in the inn, which is really a theatrical prop joined to a genuinely ancient blade.

Despite passionate rival claims from York, Leicester intends to rebury the king magnificently next year. The cathedral, less than 100 yards from the grave where he lay hidden for so long, first announced plans for a simple memorial slab in the floor covering his new burial space, similar to the present memorial that was installed 30 years ago. Many, including members of the Richard III Society, felt the historic importance of the remains – and the worldwide interest in them – demanded something more elaborate, and the cathedral has now launched a £1m appeal for a handsome raised tomb.

And from England we fly over to the New World, Inca mummies: Child sacrifice victims fed drugs and alcohol

Tests on three mummies found in Argentina have shed new light on the Inca practice of child sacrifice.

Scientists have revealed that drugs and alcohol played a key part in the months and weeks leading up to the children’s deaths.

Tests on one of the children, a teenage girl, suggest that she was heavily sedated just before her demise.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Emma Brown, from the department of archaeological sciences at the University of Bradford, said: “The Spanish chroniclers suggest that children were sacrificed for all kinds of reasons: important life milestones in the lives of the Incas, in times of war or natural disasters, but there was a calendar of rituals too.”

Frozen in time

The mummified remains were discovered in 1999, entombed in a shrine near the summit of the 6,739m-high Llullaillaco volcano in Argentina.

Three children were buried there: a 13-year-old girl, and a younger boy and girl, thought to be about four or five years old.

Their remains date to about 500 years ago, during the time of the Inca empire, which dominated South America until the Europeans arrived at the end of the 15th Century.

“The preservation is phenomenal – they’ve been called the best preserved mummies in the world,” explained Dr Brown.

“These three children look like they are asleep.”

The international team of researchers used forensic tests to analyse the chemicals found in the children’s hair.

They discovered that all three had consumed alcohol and coca leaves (from which cocaine is extracted) in the final months of their lives.

Historical records reveal that these substances were reserved for the elite and often used in Incan rituals.

I guess you could at least say they were too stoned to know what was happening? Or to high to feel any pain when they were sacrificed?

You can read more at the link, and see a video report too.

This is an open thread.


Elephant Birds and Here’s Johnny: Open Thread

File:Aepyornis.jpgGood Evening

My daughter’s cheerleading dinner is tonight, which is a big thing here in Banjoville. It means we get to drive 45 minutes to eat out at a fancy Japanese steak house… you know the ones where they cook on a hot grill right in front of you. So since I am writing this post early in the morning, I hope the links are not repeats from during the day.

First off, this is one huge mutthafukken egg! Watch this video report from BBC:

Giant egg from extinct elephant bird up for auction

A rare giant bird egg is being auctioned at Christie’s auction house in London.

It was laid by an Elephant Bird in Madagascar and is thought to have been discovered by archaeologists in the late 19th or early 20th century.

The species became extinct sometime between the 13th and 17th centuries.

Who will shell out for this pre-17th century fossilised bird egg?

elephant-bird-eggAt 30cm tall and 21cm in diameter, the impressive egg is about 100 times larger than an average chicken egg, and larger than eggs laid by dinosaurs.

Far out innit? Check out the history of the Elephant Bird:

Elephant birds are an extinctfamily of flightless birds found only on the island of Madagascar. They comprised the generaAepyornis and Mullerornis. The reasons for and timings of their extinctions remain unclear, although there are written accounts of elephant bird sightings on the island in the 17th century.

egg

The elephant birds, which were giant ratites native to Madagascar, have been extinct since at least the 17th century. Étienne de Flacourt, a French governor of Madagascar in the 1640s and 1650s, recorded frequent sightings of elephant birds. The famous explorer and traveler Marco Polo also mentions very large birds in his accounts of his journeys to the East during the 12th–13th centuries. These earlier accounts are today believed to describe elephant birds.[2]Aepyornis, believed to have been more than 3 m (10 ft) tall and weighing close to 400 kg (880 lb)[3], was at the time the world’s largest bird. Remains of Aepyornis adults and eggs have been found; in some cases the eggs have a circumference of more than 1 m (3 ft 3 in) and a length up to 34 cm (13 in).[4] The egg volume is about 160 times greater than a chicken egg.[5]

A bird that weighed 880 pounds! Geez!

Click image for more information.

Click image for more information.

Damn, that is one bad ass bird. Can you imagine coming across one of these things in the wild…wow.

And sticking with birds for the moment, True colors of some fossil feathers now in doubt (w/ Video)

Geological processes can affect evidence of the original colors of fossil feathers, according to new research by Yale University scientists, who said some previous reconstructions of fossil bird and dinosaur feather colors may now merit revision. The discovery reveals how the evidence for the colors of feathers—especially melanin-based colors—can be altered during fossilization, and suggests that past reconstructions of the original colors of feathers in some fossil birds and dinosaurs may be flawed.

[…]

In modern birds, black, brown, and some reddish-brown colors are produced by tiny granules of the pigment melanin. These features—called melanosomes—are preserved in many fossil feathers, and their precise size and shape have been used to reconstruct the original colors of fossil feathers. “The problem was that we had no idea whether melanosomes could survive the fossilisation process intact,” said McNamara. “Our experiments show that this is not the case. Our results cast a cautionary light on studies of fossil feather color and suggest that some previous reconstructions of the original plumage colors of fossils may not be accurate.” Using a novel experimental technique pioneered in the group’s recent study on the colors of fossil insects, McNamara’s interdisciplinary team simulated high pressures and temperatures that are found deep under the Earth’s surface. The team used feathers of different colors and from different species, but the geometry of the melanosomes in all feathers changed during the experiments. “This study will lead to better interpretations of the original plumage colors of diverse feathered dinosaurs and fossil birds,” said Briggs. “Fossils that have experienced relatively mild burial conditions will yield the most accurate reconstructions.”

There is a video at that link, you will find it fascinating.

Have you heard about the controversy over in England dealing with Richard III? A lawsuit has been filed….citing human rights issues. It seems strange to me…anyway here is the story: Richard III burial challenged on human rights grounds

The debate over the reburial of English King Richard III is heating up, with a group of the monarch’s supposed descendents challenging the University of Leicester on the plans for re-interment, basing their argument on human rights violations.

University of Leicester archaeologists discovered the bones of the lost monarch under a parking lot in Leicester last year, and they confirmed the king’s identity in February. The U.K. Ministry of Justice issued the university an exhumation certificate before the project began, giving them the right to decide where the king’s remains would be reburied, if found. That certificate hasn’t stopped the eruption of debate over the best spot for the burial.

From the beginning of the long search for Richard’s grave, the University of Leicester officials have stated that the king would be reburied in Leicester Cathedral, not far from his unmarked parking lot grave. But a number of Richard III enthusiasts say they’d rather see the king buried in York, a city where he spent about a third of his life.

Now, the Plantagenet Alliance, a group of about 15 people who claim to be relatives of the dead king, has released its intentions to file a legal challenge against the University of Leicester’s exhumation certificate. The challenge will argue that the Ministry of Justice is in violation of article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which affirms the right to respect for family and home life. [Gallery: The Discovery of Richard III]

According to the Alliance, the Ministry of Justice should have consulted the 15 relatives of Richard III before issuing the university a license to rebury the king as they wished. In a statement, the University of Leicester called this argument “particularly odd.”

“There is no obligation to consult living relatives where remains are older than 100 years,” the University of Leicester said.

In addition, Richard died without offspring. Any relatives are thus the descendents of his siblings, a relatively distant tie.

[…]

“Reinterment on the nearest consecrated ground is in keeping with good archaeological practice,” university officials stated. “Richard has lain in the shadow of St. Martin’s Cathedral, Leicester, for over 500 years.”

Seriously, the plans to re-bury Richard have been stated before they even found him under the car park. Seems like the powers that be in York are looking for a way to cash in on the find. This lawsuit has nothing to do with human rights…it has to do with money and more money than anything else.

The last link I have for you tonight is about Stanley Kubrick: Room 237 Review – The Shining Is Much Scarier Than You Thought

Nine different theories of the film are outlined in Room 237. These range from the somewhat obvious, like the uncovering of Native American themes and images, to outright conspiracy theories, like hidden proofs that Kubrick faked the moon landing. Even that crazy idea has some evidence to support it. Danny is wearing an Apollo 11 sweater during key scenes. Also, Kubrick changed the room number from the book. It was 217. He changed it to 237. The moon is 237 hundred thousand miles from the earth. Spooky, right?

That is all I am going to give you, just go read the entire review at the link.

Hope you enjoy your evening, I know that right about now I am sitting across from a sizzling grill, drinking plum wine and eating some damn good food.

This is an open thread.


Evening Open Thread…Richard III, Mary Ingalls and the Devil in New Orleans

Pretty baby in this vintage ad...

Pretty baby in this vintage ad…

Good Evening

Wow, good news out of Alabama...I am so relieved that this little boy is with his mama and daddy. He has a long road ahead of him, this ordeal would be difficult for an adult, much less a 5 year old autistic boy.

Thanks to Dakinikat for covering for me yesterday. Banjoland got hit with a snow storm, which stranded my kids, my mom and me in a hotel for the night. It was a mess…Ground Hog Day storm dumps 3-5 inches of snow in places in north Ga.

click to enlarge

Road on Blood Mountain…

Today has been an active news day, there is one story that I find completely fascinating. Richard III: DNA confirms twisted bones belong to king.

There were cheers when Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist on the hunt for the king’s body, finally announced that the university team was convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that it had found the last Plantagenet king, bent by scoliosis of the spine, and twisted further to fit into a hastily dug hole in Grey Friars church, which was slightly too small to hold his body.

But by then it was clear the evidence was overwhelming, as the scientists who carried out the DNA tests, those who created the computer-imaging technology to peer on to and into the bones in raking detail, the genealogists who found a distant descendant with matching DNA, and the academics who scoured contemporary texts for accounts of the king’s death and burial, outlined their findings.

“What a morning. What a story,” said Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society. She had been driving on the project for years, in the face of incredulity from many people, and finding funds from Ricardians all over the world when it looked as if the money would run out before the excavation had even begun.

Have you seen the skeleton?

The complete skeleton showing the curve of the spine of Richard III

The complete skeleton showing the curved spine of Richard III, who was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Photograph: EPA

As far as Langley is concerned, Richard was the true king, the last king of the north, a worthy and brave leader who became a victim of some of the most brilliant propaganda in history, in the hands of the Tudors’ image-maker, Shakespeare.

Foxhall quoted one contemporary description of Richard as “slight in body and weak in strength … to his last breath he held himself nobly in a defending manner”.

The Plantagenets are my favorite historic royal family. So Richard III, being the last of the Plantagenet line, is really exciting to me. BBC has a real cool interactive at this link, so check it out: Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king’s

His skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.

One was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull – a depth of more than 10cm (4ins).

‘Humiliation injuries’

Dr Appleby said: “Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.

The earliest surviving portrait of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral
“In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had penetrated 7cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death would have been instantaneous.”

Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. There was also evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including a pelvic wound likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.

Didn’t the same thing happen to Qaddafi? Didn’t someone stick a metal pole up his butt too?

Two questions remain…The first one being…Where does skeleton revelation leave legend of Richard III?

We can assume that when Richard III was interred by the monks in the church of the Greyfriars, possibly with a few of Henry Tudor’s henchmen present to see that it was done, it would not have been the burial a king of England could have expected. The confirmation that the remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard means that, at last, this can be put right and he can be laid to rest with the solemnity and dignity that is appropriate for an anointed king.

Even more significantly, the finding and reinterment of Richard III’s remains will, we hope, open up the debate about the king and his reputation. It would make such a difference if people would start to look into the history of this much maligned monarch without the old prejudices. Perhaps, then, they will see past the myth and innuendo that has blackened his name and find the truth. No one is going to suggest that he was a saint – I have said on many occasions that we are not the Richard III Adoration Society – but even a cursory reading of the known facts will show that the Tudor representation of Richard III, especially that in Shakespeare’s well known play, just doesn’t stand up.

The second of course, surrounds the mystery of the two boys in the tower.

Richard III was no saint but neither was he a criminal. All but one of the so-called crimes laid at his door can be refuted by the facts. The one that cannot is the disappearance of his nephews, the “Princes in the Tower” and the answer to that question is simply that no-one knows what happened to them. All that follows is conjecture – they just disappeared. Richard had no need to kill them; they had been declared bastards. Henry VII needed them out of the way, but he got so scared whenever a pretender appeared that it is likely that he knew they were alive at the time Richard died at Bosworth. Did they die in 1483 or 1485 or were they spirited out of the country to their aunt, the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy? We will probably never know.

What a story!

Okay, now a few quick links…there is a new discovery regarding another historic literary character, this one is about an American pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sister Mary Ingalls.  Meningoencephalitis Brain Inflammation Blinded Mary Ingalls

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” books, she describes her sister Mary going blind from scarlet fever. But brain and spinal cord inflammation likely caused Mary’s blindness, a new study suggests.

The findings, published today (Feb. 4) in the journal Pediatrics, came from poring over the symptoms Wilder described in memoirs and books.

“Since I was in medical school, I had wondered about whether scarlet fever could cause blindness, because I always remembered Mary’s blindness from reading the ‘Little House’ stories and knew that scarlet fever was once a deadly disease,” said study co-author Beth Tarini, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, in a statement.

Wilder wrote several books describing her life as a pioneer in the mid-1800s. In one, she describes her sister Mary going blind at age 14 in 1879.

The consensuses is that scarlet fever was an illness that most people would be familiar with, so the editors who originally published Laura’s books decided no to mention “brain fever.”

“Meningoencephalitis could explain Mary’s symptoms, including the inflammation of the facial nerve that left the side of her face temporarily paralyzed,” Tarini said in a statement. “It could also lead to inflammation of the optic nerve that would result in a slow and progressive loss of sight.”

It’s not clear why the editors of the book tied Mary’s blindness to scarlet fever, but one possibility is that the disease was such a well-known and feared scourge at the time, the researchers suggest.

If you missed any of the commercials from last night, you can see a list of them here: 2013 Super Bowl Ads: GoDaddy, Budweiser, Mercedes, BlackBerry, Samsung and the night’s most interesting commercials. Here is what Slate had to say…

An Audi ad opens with a nervous high school boy getting ready for prom. He’s going stag because he has no date. Even his little sis pities him. Then dad tosses over the keys to a bitchin’ Audi. When next we see the kid, he’s driving recklessly, violating parking rules, frenching the prom queen right in front of her boyfriend, and getting punched in the face. So I guess the takeaway is that driving an Audi will transform you from a sweet, humble guy into a total prick? And since teens can’t afford to buy Audis, this metamorphosis is presumably meant to stoke the fires of middle-aged men. Which is kind of gross.

I’m with Dak on this ad, I found it disgusting. Here is a description of another car ad last night that I found very clever…I tried to embed the video but it would not work, be sure to click the link to see it.

Mercedes-Benz introduces its CLA model with a Faustian tale. Satan (played by Willem Dafoe, enjoying his meatiest role since Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant) offers a Mercedes in exchange for a man’s soul. The man thinks about all the devilish things he’ll do when he gets his new ride. Party with Kate Upton. Dance with Usher. Make the cover of Vanity Fair. He’s ready to sign on the bottom line until he learns that the car costs a mere $29,900. So he opts to pay in cash instead of in metaphysical debt. Well-conceived ad. And take note, Audi: This is how you give your car some evil swagger without suggesting that teen boys should sexually accost teen girls.

Yup…one more commercial to mention, thanks to Ecocatwoman who sent me this link…it is an extended version of the Clydesdale commercial:  Budweiser Super Bowl 2013 Commercial — Extended Version

That is all I got for you tonight…this is an open thread.


Monday Reads: Guns Galore and Other News

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." -- C.S. Lewis

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” — C.S. Lewis

Good Morning!!

The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl, 34-31. I completely ignored it, so I didn’t see any of the commercials or the game. I did find this review of the commercials at the WaPo. I’m very happy for Ravens fans though–especially Janicen. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s see what else is going on in the news.

I’m sure everyone has heard about the Navy Seal sniper who was shot in by a marine he may have been trying to help. The NYT reports:

From his perch in hide-outs above battle-scarred Iraq, Chris Kyle earned a reputation as one of America’s deadliest military snipers. The Pentagon said his skills with a rifle so terrorized Iraqi insurgents during his four tours of duty that they nicknamed him the “Devil of Ramadi” and put a bounty on his head.

The insurgents never collected, and he returned home to become a best-selling author and a mentor to other veterans, sometimes taking them shooting at a gun range near his Texas home as a kind of therapy to salve battlefield scars, friends said. One such veteran was Eddie Ray Routh, a 25-year-old Marine who had served tours in Iraq and Haiti.

But on Saturday, far from a war zone, Mr. Routh turned on Mr. Kyle, 38, and a second man, Chad Littlefield, 35, shortly after they arrived at an exclusive shooting range near Glen Rose, Tex., about 50 miles southwest of Fort Worth, law enforcement authorities said Sunday. The officials said that for reasons that were still unclear, Mr. Routh shot and killed both men with a semiautomatic handgun before fleeing in a pickup truck belonging to Mr. Kyle.

“Chad and Chris had taken a veteran out to shoot to try to help him,” said Travis Cox, a friend of Mr. Kyle’s. “And they were killed.”

I’m sorry about these two meaningless murders, but I’m mystified as to why anyone would want to read a book about someone who shot hundreds of people from a distance in Iraq. Supposedly they were “insurgents,” but who really knows? All those innocent people at Gitmo and dead civilians in Pakistan suggest to me that the U.S. military isn’t so great at separating civilians from combatants.

I’m even more mystified as to why taking someone with PTSD from serving in Iraq and Haiti to a gun range for therapy would be a good idea. Anyway, I don’t mean to judge, just my two cents.

According to the Dallas News, Routh became aggressive in jail and was tasered by guards.

After eating dinner, Routh refused to return his food tray to jailers. He became aggressive and tried to attack them when they tried to get it back from him, said Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant.

Jailers tasered Routh and placed him in a restraining chair in his solitary cell. He is on suicide watch, Bryant said….Routh, a former Marine and Iraqi War veteran, is believed to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Investigators say that he shot Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield at point-blank range around 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Please note Routh used a semi-automatic handgun to shoot the Kyle and Littlefield. Wayne LaPierre is outraged that there was no “good guy” with a bigger gun around to protect them. Sorry, I made that up.

Speaking of Crazy Wayne, he was on Fox News Sunday yesterday, and he managed to be so outrageous that Chris Wallace told him he was being “ridiculous.” From Business Insider:

Fox News host Chris Wallace and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre got into a heated exchange on “Fox News Sunday” this morning, as Wallace challenged LaPierre on a controversial ad involving President Barack Obama’s daughters.

Wallace played the clip of the ad, which called Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for sending his children to a school with armed protection while opposing it for other schools. (That ad has actually been proven false.)

Wallace asked LaPierre if he regretted putting up the ad. He avoided the question and said the point of the ad was “not to pick on the President’s kids.”

Here’s the most contentious exchange:

LAPIERRE: The President’s kids are safe, and we’re all thankful for that.
WALLACE: They also face a threat that most people do not face.

LAPIERRE: Tell that to the people in Newtown! Tell that to the people in Newtown.

WALLACE: Do you really think that the President’s children are the same kind of target as every schoolchild in America? I think that’s ridiculous, and you know it, sir.

Here’s the video of the interview:

It seems as if the entire gun safety debate has boiled down to a huge argument over the AR-15 rifle.  What is it about that gun anyway?   The New York Times has a very long read about it headlined The AR-15: The Most Wanted Gun in America.

THE phone rings again at Pasadena Pawn and Gun, and a familiar question comes down the line: “Got any ARs?”

The answer is no. Pasadena Pawn and Gun, a gun retailer and pawnshop 15 miles south of Baltimore, is pretty much sold out of America’s most wanted gun, the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. Since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December, the AR-15, the military-style weapon that the police say was used in the shootings, has been selling fast here and across the nation.

Before Newtown, the rifles sold for about $1,100, on average. Now some retailers charge twice that. At Pasadena Pawn, on the wall behind glass counters of handguns, are three dozen or so AR-15-style rifles. Dangling from nearly every one is a tag that says “Sold.”

hellokitty_ar15assault_2

Is that sick or what? Basically, the gun has become a fashion statement–like an expensive handbag or pair of shoes.

“The AR-15, it’s kind of fashionable,” says Frank Loane Sr., the proprietor. His shop has a revolving waiting list for the rifles, and a handful of people are now on it. “The young generation likes them, the assault-looking guns.”

Sick. I don’t know how else to react to that.

As everyone knows, the White House released a photo of President Obama shooting a gun–supposedly he was skeet shooting at Camp David–in response to demands from wingnuts like Marsha Blackburn.

Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, expressed doubt about Obama’s skeet shooting.

“You know, if you don’t have the photos, if this is not something that’s a new hobby, then I think he should invite me out to Camp David and I’ll challenge him,” Blackburn said on CNN, according to a transcript.

Read the rest of this entry »


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

The Twitterati were all aTwit about the Romney’s really really rough “struggle” in life yesterday.  It was a pretty funny hashtag thread in response to Ann Romney trying to list the Romney “struggles”.   You know, it must’ve been tough waiting for that fourth draft deferment for Vietnam while Mitt lived in a palace in France. Then, you know, we all have that problem of having to dip into the stock portfolio our parents gave us while trying to go to Harvard. So, it goes with out saying, life is just one struggle to keep up with the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the P-Diddys.

Ann Romney pushed back Sunday against detractors whom she said have called her husband “heartless,” emphasizing that she and Mitt Romney have struggled, even if not financially.

“Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives,” Ann Romney said in an interview with Mitt Romney that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle. And our struggles have not been financial, but they’ve been with health and with difficulties in different things in life.”

President Obama leads Mitt Romney in the polls when it comes to which candidate has more empathy for people struggling in the economy. At the Republican convention last month, the campaign tried to combat that narrative. Ann Romney tried to humanize Mitt Romney in her address, calling their life together a “real marriage” that began by eating “a lot of pasta and tuna fish.” The campaign also enlisted several of Romney’s friends from his congregation in Massachusetts to paint the candidate as compassionate.

All of us “you people” just don’t understand.  That would include the Fact Checkers at The Atlantic.

Ann Romney 2012:  “I saw the long hours that started with that first job. I was there when he and a small group of friends talked about starting a new company. I was there when they struggled and wondered if the whole idea just wasn’t going to work. Mitt’s reaction was to work harder and press on.”

The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman: At Bain & Company, founder Bill Bain treated Romney “as a kind of prince regent at the firm, a favored son.” He selected Romney to start  and run Bain Capital. “It would be Romney’s first chance to run his own firm and, potentially, to make a killing,” they write. “It was an offer few young men in a hurry could refuse. Yet Romney stunned his boss by doing just that.” They continue:

“He explained to Bain that he didn’t want to risk his position, earnings, and reputation on an experiment. He found the offer appealing but didn’t want to make the decision in a “light or flippant manner.” So Bain sweetened the pot. He guaranteed that if the experiment failed Romney would get his old job and salary back, plus any raises he would have earned during his absence. Still, Romney worried about the impact on his reputation if he proved unable to do the job. Again the pot was sweetened. Bain promised that, if necessary, he would craft a cover story saying that Romney’s return to Bain & Company was needed due to his value as a consultant. “So,” Bain explained, “there was no professional or financial risk.” This time Romney said yes.”

Yeah.  All of us should be blessed by THESE kinds of struggles.

Okay, it’s time for another kat’s adventure in historical grave stuff item.  This time it’s on the search for the grave for Richard III in the UK.

An archaeological dig searching for the grave of Richard III has uncovered evidence of a lost garden, organisers said.

Experts from the University of Leicester who are leading the search discovered paving stones which they believe belong to the garden of Robert Herrick where, historically, it is recorded there was a memorial to Richard III.

Work by the “time tomb team”, as they have become known, has so far involved the digging of two trenches at a Leicester city centre car park – and this week a third was excavated – thought to cover the site of a Franciscan friar where the former king is believed to have been buried in 1485.

Working alongside members of the Richard III Society, archaeologists also confirmed they had found the church of the Grey Friars.

Research at the site, which is owned by Leicester City Council, began on August 24 with archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar equipment to mark out the trenches.

Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, said: “This is an astonishing discovery and a huge step forward in the search for King Richard’s grave.

“Herrick is incredibly important in the story of Richard’s grave and in potentially helping us get that little bit closer to locating it.”

In the early 1600s, Alderman Robert Herrick, a mayor of Leicester, bought the land of the Grey Friars and built a large mansion house with a garden on the site.

In 1612, Christopher Wren, father of the famous architect, was visiting Herrick and recorded seeing a handsome three foot stone pillar in Herrick’s garden.

Inscribed on the pillar was: “Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England.”

No mention of Richard III would be complete without a h/t to Shakespeare

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Since I’m waxing poetic, philosophical, and political, here’s a quick music break.

Public Policy Polling finds that Obama leads in Ohio by 5 points.  Ohio is an important swing state.

PPP’s first post-conventions poll in Ohio finds Barack Obama with a 5 point lead over Mitt Romney, 50-45. This is the largest lead PPP has found for Obama in an Ohio poll since early May. Last month Obama led 48-45.

Both candidates have seen their images improve with Ohio voters in the wake of the conventions. Obama now breaks even in his approval rating at 48%, after being under water with 46% of voters approving and 51% disapproving of him a month ago. Romney’s numbers are up from a 41/52 favorability rating a month ago as well, but he still remains unpopular. Only 44% see him favorably to 49% with a negative opinion.

Romney actually leads 46-44 with independents but Obama has the overall advantage thanks to a more unified party base. He leads 86/11 with Democrats, compared to Romney’s 83/13 advantage with Republicans. Obama’s 75 point lead within his own party is up from 70 points a month ago, suggesting that his party has coalesced around him a little bit more in the wake of a successful convention. By a 47/35 margin Ohio voters say they think the Democrats had a better convention than the Republicans.

ETHAN BRONNER writes about how the legal battles on voting may prove critical to the election in November for the NYT.

In the last few weeks, nearly a dozen decisions in federal and state courts on early voting, provisional ballots and voter identification requirements have driven the rules in conflicting directions, some favoring Republicans demanding that voters show more identification to guard against fraud and others backing Democrats who want to make voting as easy as possible.

The most closely watched cases — in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania — will see court arguments again this week, with the Ohio dispute possibly headed for a request for emergency review by the Supreme Court.

In Wisconsin, the home state of the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the attorney general has just appealed to the State Supreme Court on an emergency basis to review two rulings barring its voter ID law. But even if all such cases are settled before Nov. 6 — there are others in Florida, Iowa and South Carolina — any truly tight race will most likely generate post-election litigation that could delay the final result.

“In any of these states there is the potential for disaster,” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “You have close elections and the real possibility that people will say their votes were not counted when they should have been. That’s the nightmare scenario for the day after the election.”

In the 2000 presidential election, a deadlock over ballot design and tallying in parts of Florida led the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, to stop a recount of ballots, which led to George W. Bush defeating Al Gore. Since then, both parties have focused on voting procedures.

The Obama campaign, for example, brought suit in Ohio over its reduction of early voting weekends used more by blacks than other groups.

Denying people their constitutional rights appears to be the Republican Party priority these days.

So, Chicago’s Teachers are on strike.  It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything quite this big.  Guess Rahmbo likes his schools chartered instead of completely public.

Why are these 29,000 teachers and school workers going on strike in the nation’s third-largest public school district?

Because they want what all workers want: fair pay and decent working conditions. They also want what all teachers want — to serve their students to their best of their abilities.

Here’s a few things you need to know about the strike, and why the CTU is right and Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who has failed to fairly bargain with the union — is wrong:

  • Powerful Outside Interests Worked With Rahm To Cripple CTU’s Ability To Strike (They Failed): Last year, outside groups education privatization groups like Stand for Children worked with the city council and mayor to raise the strike threshold limit to 75 percent — meaning that 3/4 of teachers had to vote to strike. Jonah Edelman, who works for the group, bragged during the Aspen Ideas Festival that they had essentially eliminated teachers’ ability to strike. But in June, nearly 90 percent of CTU members voted to authorize a strike, easily surpassing the barrier that the city and education privatization groups had placed on them. But outside groups haven’t stopped taking aim at union rights. They’ve even paid protesters to demonstrate against CTU.
  • Rahm Refuses To Pay Teachers What They Were Promised: Being a teacher takes hard work, and it’s one of the most most poorly-paid professions relative to the work load. The leadership of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had agreed to offer teachers a four percent raise last year, but Mayor Emanuel canceled this agreement. The district has refused to address this raise in negotiations. While gutting teachers’ pay increases, CPS is calling for longer school days. Would you want to work more hours without being fairly compensated for it?
  • The City Won’t Agree To Limit The Number Of Kids In Classrooms: Over-crowded classrooms are bad for students, teachers, and parents. That’s why 32 states have limits on classroom size. Illinois does not. CTU wants to see limits on class sizes in its contract, but the city refuses to discuss it.
  • Rahm Is Intent On Shifting Funds To Untested And Unproven Charter Schools: Rahm has been laying the groundwork for a rapid expansion of charter schools, and wants to create nearly 250 more within five to ten years (this would amount to half the system). This massive diversion of funds from the public system is not based on the facts of what actually works for students. The most comprehensive study of charter schools in the United States found that most deliver results similar to those of public schools. Not surprisingly, Chicago’s charter schools are largely devoid of unions and the benefits they provide for students and teachers alike. Charter school teachers tend to earn 8 percent less than normal public school teachers — which makes them an attractive tool for austerity-prone conservatives. CTU wants a more fair distribution of funds.

I can’t honestly say that I’d want to teach there for $42,000 a year.  I could make more money than that tending bar in the French Quarter and live much
more cheaply.

Anyway, I’ve had another lost week trying to catch up from Isaac.  I’ve been visited by FEMA and my insurance agent and I seem to have myself situated into a start up media production company on its way to challenging a well-known cable TV channel.  I shall be interviewed this week–actually about this blog–and will send you the link later.  Life is always interesting down here in the Big Easy, that’s for sure.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: The King Who Wanted To Be Queen?

Good Morning

Hope everyone is staying dry, and plugged in…by that I mean your electricity is still on and strong!

I could not bring myself to watch the show last night. Even though it looks as if there was plenty to make fun of, and the speeches probably would have got me all fired up…you know, pissed off.

I could not even force myself to read the various pundit’s views on the evening. (Although this one here by Charlie Pierce is supposed to be a good one.) Safe to say this morning’s reads will touch on things that you may have missed the last few days.

This first link is for Dakinikat, I know how fascinated she is with the archaeology of ancient graves: Archaeologists begin dig to uncover grave of Richard III in Leicester

The son of a descendant of Richard III’s eldest sister was on site today as what is believed to be the first ever search for the lost grave of an anointed King of England began in a city centre car park.

Canadian-born Michael Ibsen watched as archaeological experts from the University of Leicester used ground penetrating radar equipment to find the best spots to begin their search today at the car park off Greyfriars in Leicester.

[…]

Richard III was brought to Leicester where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars, after he fell in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

But the exact whereabouts of the church have become lost over time.

While hopes are high at finding the site, which is currently being used as a car park for council offices, the experts are less confident about finding the monarch’s remains during the two-week search.

Rumours say the monarch’s bones could have been thrown into the River Soar after the dissolution of the monasteries.

Philippa Langley, from the Richard III Society which has been involved with the project, said: “We know he was buried here but the church disappeared after the dissolution of the monasteries as did his grave so today we begin the search for Richard.

“We know his body was led into Leicester and put on display for three days by Henry Tudor before he was buried.

“I hope we do find him because I want to give him a proper resting place and also to explode a lot of myths around Richard III.”

Myths? I wonder…

For more on the dig, you can take a look at these articles:

As for the myths…when I think of Richard III, I think of Shakespeare…Richard III:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Which makes me think of the movie The Goodbye Girl…specifically the scene where Richard Dreyfus is playing the King who wanted to be Queen…

Goodbye Girl, The — (Movie Clip) Don’t Give Me Bette Midler

The first rehearsal of the Off-Broadway Richard III, director Mark (Paul Benedict) offering his unorthodox theory, Chicago actor Elliott (Richard Dreyfuss), cast in the lead, expressing concern, in Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl, 1977.

I’ve tried to embed the video below, so if it does not work correctly, please be sure to give that link a click and watch the scene. Too funny!

Assistant Director: Act one scene one…
Elliot Garfield: Uh, excuse me. Sorry. Just how far off the diving board do you want me to jump?
Mark: Well, don’t give me Bette Midler, but let’s not be afraid to be bold.
Elliot Garfield: Bold.
Mark: Bold.
Assistant Director: Act one, scene one, enter Richard Duke of Glochester.
Elliot Garfield: Now is the winter of our discontent… Sorry, one minute. Now is the winter…
Elliot Garfield: [Very effeminate] Now ith the winter of our dithcontent… may I have a 5 minute break please?
Mark: Five minutes.

Okay, so Richard, complete with club foot, twisted hand and pink polish on his nails. What a sight that would be…which leads me to our next link. New strain of hand, foot and mouth virus worries parents, pediatricians

Bernard Cohen, M.D., director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and colleague Kate Puttgen, M.D., have seen or consulted on close to 50 such cases in the last few months and have received countless phone calls from scared parents and concerned physicians. Cohen believes this number may be just the tip of the iceberg with primary care pediatricians seeing the bulk of new cases.

Cohen and Puttgen want to reassure parents that most cases of the disease are benign and that nearly all patients recover in seven to 10 days without treatment and without serious complications.

“What we are seeing is relatively common viral illness called hand-foot-and-mouth disease but with a new twist,” Cohen says.

The culprit is an unusual strain of the common coxsackie virus that usually causes the disease. The new strain, coxsackie A6, previously found only in Africa and Asia, is now cropping up all over the United States.

[…]

The new strain, however, behaves somewhat differently from its homegrown cousin, Cohen says. It carries a slightly higher risk for more serious illness and more widespread rash that can involve the arms, legs, face and diaper area. The new strain also seems to affect older as well as younger children.

I wonder if my kids and husband had this strain of the virus, it may not be a club foot, but for some reason the thing with Richard’s illnesses seemed like a pathetic segue into this foot and mouth article. Yeah, I am reaching…I know. 😉

I have yet another laughable connection to the foot and mouth link, this one about a virus that is transmitted by vermin. (Oh, not that the virus is laughable, but that my attempt at making some kind of themed post this morning. Now that is laughable.)  Second Yosemite National Park visitor dies of rodent-borne illness

A second person has died of a rare, rodent-borne disease after visiting Yosemite National Park earlier this summer and park officials warned past visitors to be aware of some flu-like aches and symptoms.

Health officials learned this weekend of the second hantavirus death, which killed a person who visited the park in June, spokesman Scott Gediman said in a statement.

There is one other confirmed case of the illness, and a fourth is being investigated.

Yosemite officials said Monday that the four visitors might have been exposed while vacationing at the park’s Curry Village, and are warning those who stayed in the village’s tent cabins from mid-June through the end of August to beware of any symptoms of hantavirus, which can include fever, aches, dizziness and chills. An outreach effort is under way to contact visitors from that period who stayed in “Signature Tent Cabins,” which have more insulation and amenities than other tent cabins.

Federal health officials say symptoms may develop up to 5 weeks after exposure to urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents, and Yosemite advised visitors to watch for symptoms for up to six weeks.

Of the 587 documented US cases since the virus was identified in 1993, about one-third proved fatal. There is no specific treatment for the virus.

Geez, scary stuff innit?

Moving away from the deformed body of a closet queen, and various viruses…I come to an article that shows the twisted irony involved with the religious right…or should that be better phrased as the fucked up hypocrisy that parades around as the anti-gay right wing? Anti-LGBT Prop 8 activist confesses to molesting young boys

A Yucca Valley, California man associated with the anti-LGBT ballot initiative Proposition 8 has confessed to the molestation of multiple young boys over the course of decades.  According to the Wisconsin Gazette, Caleb Edward Hesse, 52, a first grade teacher and youth volunteer, has been arraigned on 4 felony counts of lewd conduct upon a child.  The San Bernadino District Attorney’s office has said that more charges are pending as the case develops and more victims come forward.

“The crimes are believed to have occurred between the early 1980s and as recently as one week ago,” reads a report from the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Office.  ”Some of the victims may now be 30 (to) 40 years old.”

Hesse allegedly molested the boys on “countless overnight outings that took place throughout California” and were sponsored by the church where he volunteered, Yucca Valley’s Evangelical Free Church.  Hesse has been a first grade teacher at Friendly Hills Elementary School since 1987.

The Gazette has found that Hesse donated in 2008 to the campaign supporting the anti-LGBT ballot initiative Proposition 8.  He was also the owner of ProtectMarriage.com, a now-defunct Prop 8 fundraising site, according to LGBT news service Gayopolis.

You just can’t make this shit up!!!

And speaking of the twisted right…I have a couple of articles to share with you on the Republican Party.

Lawrence Wittner: The Republican “Small Government” Fraud –  This one deals with the kind of hypocrisy we have talked about so many times on the blog.

One of the most widely-advertised but falsest claims in American politics is that the modern Republican Party stands for “small government.”

In the distant past, leading Republicans were sharp critics of statism. And, even today, a few marginal party activists, like U.S. Representative Ron Paul, have championed limited government — even libertarian — policies. But this is not at all the norm for the contemporary GOP.

For example, the modern Republican Party has stood up with remarkable consistency for the post-9/11 U.S. government policies of widespread surveillance, indefinite detention without trial, torture, and extraordinary rendition. It has also supported government subsidies for religious institutions, government restrictions on immigration and free passage across international boundaries, government denial of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers, government attacks on public use of public space (for example, the violent police assaults on the Occupy movement), and government interference with women’s right to abortion and doctors’ right to perform it.

And this barely scratches the surface of the Republican Party’s “big government” policies. The GOP has rallied fervently around government interference with the right of same-sex couples to marry, government provision of extraordinarily lengthy imprisonment for drug possession (for example, in the “war on drugs”) and numerous other nonviolent offenses, government curbing of voting rights (for example, “voter suppression” laws), and government restrictions on freedom of information. Where, one wonders, is the Republican outrage at the U.S. government’s crackdown on people like Bradley Manning who expose government misconduct, or on whistle-blowing operations like Wikileaks and its leading light, Julian Assange?

Oh yeah…preach it baby!

If the Republican Party were a zealous defender of civil liberties, as it claims to be, it would laud civil liberties organizations. But, in fact, the GOP has adopted a very hostile attitude toward them. During the 1988 presidential campaign, George H. W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, publicly and repeatedly ridiculed his Democratic opponent as a “card-carrying member of the ACLU.”

Of course, the biggest arena of U.S. government action is the military. Here is where 57 percent of U.S. tax dollars currently go, thereby creating the most powerful national military machine in world history. A Republican Party that wanted to limit government would be eager to cut funding for this bloated giant. But the reality is that the modern GOP has consistently supported a vast U.S. military buildup. Today, its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, assails his Democratic competitor for military weakness and champions a $2 trillion increase in U.S. military spending over the next decade.

Moreover, the Republican Party is an avid proponent of the most violent, abusive, and intrusive kind of government action — war. In recent decades, as U.S. military intervention or outright war raged in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and other nations, the GOP was a leading source of flag-waving jingoism, as it is today in the U.S. government’s confrontation with Iran. This is not a prescription for creating limited government. As the journalist Randolph Bourne remarked in the midst of U.S. government mobilization for World War I: “War is the health of the State.”

Read the rest at the link…

Then we have this, a sort of logistical view of the exception rules for abortion…COLUMN: How would a woman prove rape to qualify for Romney’s abortion exception?

In the wake of the Todd Akin firestorm, Mitt Romney and a flip-flopping Paul Ryan have emphasized that their anti-choice stance excludes rape. In a Romney administration, abortions would be outlawed except in the case of women who have been raped, the Republican ticket has promised.

So here’s an idea, first suggested by my daughter and one of her friends: Who’s going to be the first reporter to ask Romney or Ryan how that would work? How would they implement that exception?

Would a woman’s rapist have to be convicted in court? How would that work, given that in most criminal cases it takes longer than nine months from when the crime is committed to catch the criminal (assuming the criminal is caught), prepare charges and reach a verdict. In fact, the window would be significantly less than nine months; it would start from when the pregnancy is discovered and end somewhere around the 16 to 20 weeks left during which abortions can be performed most safely.

I won’t even go into the way these exceptions could become a disgusting bureaucratic mess that makes the woman jump through so many hoops,   getting that abortion becomes impossible…all in the name of pro-life fanaticism.

And that brings me to this last article for you, in a world where women are having to fight for their basic rights…elephants are getting birth control for free! And that ain’t the GOP Elephants…we are talking African Elephants. South Africa goes big on birth control for elephants

A South African province home to thousands of elephants is planning a birth control campaign for the pachyderms to prevent a population explosion that could threaten plants and wildlife.

Unlike other parts of Africa where elephant stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels due to poaching and a loss of habitat, South Africa has seen its populations steadily grow through conservation, with the country pressed for room to house the massive animals with hefty diets.

KwaZulu-Natal province, in the southeast, is looking to expand a project running for more than a decade where elephants populations have been controlled by injecting cows with a vaccine that triggers an immune system response to block sperm reception.

Yup, I say it again, you just can’t make this shit up!

So, what are you reading about today? Feel the urge to rant about the GOP crapfest? Well…by all means…please do.